Growing food … at last!

So this week has finally seen us in a position to start growing some food, which is very exciting as that’s what it’s all about for us.

Today we planted blackberry and raspberry bushes – we also want to have blackcurrants, red currants and blueberries soon too.

We have planted cabbages, onions and garlic in a raised bed as they are all happy growing together – the garlic should help keep pests away, but we’ve added in marigolds and nasturtiums too to help with pest control too. We have another raised bed to get ready yet but will hopefully get this done soon. Also intend to sew some beans and peas this week. We’re so lucky with the climate here – we can grow pretty much all year round!

We’ve waited until now to start planting as we do now feel that we’re getting the hang of what we’ve got – there’s still a lot to do, but we’re growing in confidence. A poco a poco as they say here – little by little…

We’ve made our first raised beds out of an old IBC tote – Rog cut the top and bottom off them cut it in half to give us a decent depth – this has been filled with some homemade compost as well as some we bought (we can’t make it quick enough!) and then we’ll be topping off with mulch.

We won’t be growing everything in raised beds, some veg will be planted straight into the ground – the soil is so fertile here that topping off with some compost and mulch should be fine. We really want to mix and match the veg up – I never wanted to go for straight rows, military style and uniform, it’s just not how I roll! (that and the fact I can’t plant in a straight line for love nor money!). Some veg will be planted under the trees, such as the beans, as they put nitrogen back into the soil which the trees love, so everything wins. Also, by spreading our crops about, if one bunch gets attacked by pests then at least we’ll have another batch elsewhere – that’s the theory! We just need to remember what we’ve planted and where – I can feel a little hand drawn map coming on!

In terms of the cost, it’s pennies to grow this ourselves – 10 cabbage plugs for €1, 20 onions for €1 and €10 garlic for €1! Our compost is homemade from the compost loo and kitchen scraps, and although we’ve had to buy a couple of bags of compost to top up the homemade stuff, long term we won’t be doing that, and we chip our own cuttings for the mulch – this is what it’s all about!

The biggest challenge will be how to store our produce – the bodega is being converted into a store room, but keeping the temperature down in there will be a challenge. There are some tubes through the roof that used to be used to pour the grapes into the fermenter – we have bought a couple of solar powered fans to try and extract the warm air from inside – makes it a bit better but we’re hoping that tiling the room will make a big difference. We are going to fit a solar panel and battery to run a small chest freezer in there once it’s all been rendered and tiled inside. I think the most effective way will be to bottle most of the produce – chutneys, jams, pickles, bottled fruits and sun dried tomatoes and peppers stored in oil, that kind of thing. Hopefully we’ll have a good olive harvest and will get a decent amount of olive oil to use to preserve the food.

I’m liking the sound of this – tomatoes we’ve grown, dried on the terrace and bottled in our own olive oil … can’t wait!

Cabbage, onions and garlic:

Blackberries and raspberries:

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